BoS Wants 6 Cent Tax Hike

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has asked county staff to prepare a budget with a real estate tax rate of 77 cents, Brandon Shuletta writes in today’s Daily Progress, an increase from the current 71 cents. Declining property values require a tax hike in order to maintain existing services. Ninety cents would keep county revenue level, while 74.5 cents would keep taxpayer payments the same. Every member of the BoS had their own figure in mind, but they ultimately decided on 77 cents, with supervisors Ken Boyd and Lindsay Dorrier (the two conservative members of the board) both dissenting.

41 thoughts on “BoS Wants 6 Cent Tax Hike”

  1. A friend of mine who lives in the county just cut off his cable TV because he has had a significant cut in pay. He chose cable TV by considering his priorities. I’m sure he’s not looking forward to another increase in real estate taxes if the county adopts the 77 cents or higher option. He’ll have cut something else. If citizens can do it, why can’t governments? Is it because they can not distinguish between wants and needs (eg. artificial turf)?

  2. artificial turf

    Sheer, unadulterated lunacy. It’s pretty hard to think of a more irresponsible expense.

    This isn’t real money to the BOS. Remember – it’s only a couple of pizzas and a beer or two a month.

  3. I have yet to understand why Slutsky wanted to start at a 90 cent rate but wasn’t supporting it?
    Why waste time with a rate no one supports it’s just palin silly (I mean plain but that’s funnier).
    I just don’t understand how that even makes sense. Everybody else in the country is cutting back but not Albemarle?

    I hope this rate is further reduced and the supervisors see the errors of their ways.

  4. Cville Eye, what would you suggest be cut? I’m not very familiar with county finances, but I’m curious about the sorts of things that you think could reasonably be shelved/canceled/etc.

  5. The best way to cut county government is for the BoS to allocate to county government and the schools the same amount of money they did this year and allow the staffs to determine what to cut. With a $460M budget it is useless for the public to take the cutting process on line item by line item. The school system should expect to cut administrative functions, not classroom personnel. If fact, the BoS should distribute and anonymous survey of county and school staff asking where they would cut. They would get an earful. The BoS should make it clear to the public that it does not welcome any proposals for new programs or the expansion of existing programs. It should also make it clear to the non-profits that it funds that their allocations will remain the same or even be reduced if county staff feels it can perform some of their functions. I would suggest that both the city and county cut the visitors and conventions bureau and allow the hotels and restaurants pick up the tab for their advertising.

  6. Thanks, Cville Eye, for the thoughts. I’m learning my way on this stuff, it’s helpful to hear such ideas.

  7. I remember once, when management announced possible layoffs where I once worked, several employees went about and showed how to save significant amounts on utilities and purchases. Another result is that employees complained about the number of “assistants” another department was advertising to hire and management withdrew the ads. Not packing in a lot of people to do the work that you don’t want to do like filing, phoning, mailing, surveying, writing newsletters, or know how to do like spreadsheets, graphics, videotaping, etc. saves a lot of money. Management saved enough money that year by not replacing the PCs throughout the building that there were no layoffs. After that employees were encouraged to come forward with cost savings until some of management left and newbies came in and felt threatened that their authority was being underminded. Of course, I can’t think of a time when government had actual layoffs, just hiring freezes that does not interfere with the government’s job getting done.

  8. I would like to see one year where there are no increases in county or city spending. Let each government department learn to manage, as they are suppose to do, and for those who can’t then that is where I would start making changes. There is absolutely no reason for the dramatic increases in local spending we see from year to year…other than the fact that it is awfully easy to be generous with other peoples money….

  9. Gee, my expenses have gone up, my income has gone down. I wish I could raise taxes! The huge growth in revenue gave birth to a huge growth in spending, not surprisingly unsustainable in the current economy. I agree, cut both the city and county visitors and conventions bureau.

    Glad to hear Lindsay D. voted against this unconscionable hike.

  10. Maintain current services in a declining economy? What the hell is wrong with the BoS. Why not stop spending money on needless items, cut the budget and layoff some county employees, just like every business in the county!!! Why is it that county employees are treated like first class citizens? I for one do not understand this! Does anybody? If we need to spend money, why not on a recall where it will do some good!!!

  11. I think we need to make cuts to what qualifies for Land Use taxation. Think about it. We are giving a small percentage of our wealthiest and largest landowners a massive tax break often for nothing more than owning an unmanaged forest, or having someone cut their fields twice a year for hay. For each of these people the county loses money, since it pays Charlottesville more for these residents than it gets in taxes.

    Land Use is clearly a regressive tax, because it means raising taxes on the rest of us to subsidize our wealthiest top percent. Furthermore, it isn’t really protecting anything, since many of the properties under land use evenutually get converted to development anyway costing even more money in terms of new infrastructure.

  12. @Lonnie; Although I am one of those landowners, I DO NOT participate in Land Use. And, you are absolutely correct in your assessment. I can attest that my neighbors who do participate in Land Use, do the bare minimum to be qualified. Which is really doing nothing. The rules should be changed. Either you honestly work the land or you should pay the taxes that you owe. However, giving more money to the county, does not mean that they will spend it wisely. The BoS needs to be run as a real business. Meaning, they cut spending when times are harder and save in times of plenty to weather the hard times. But, in any case, they should STOP TAXING people in the poor house.

  13. As someone who’s family has done just that, I can tell you… it means that you actually farm something. If you are doing forestry then you should have an actual forest management plan and be able to demonstrate that you are engaged in management activities (thining, replanting, removing invasive species, etc.) A real farmer, be it of trees, goats, or anything else can back it up through receipts and expenses. No significant expenses = No Farming.

  14. Doing away with the Land Use tax program would mean that only a handful of extremely wealthy people could afford to own more than a few acres in Albemarle. While there is no shortage of these types of high net worth individuals around these parts (and I, for one, am glad to have them here), do we really want to live in a county where most of the rural land is owned by a dozen or so families?

  15. Producing hay is farming. But, there are those in Land Use that have produced hay just once and leave the rolls of hay in the field. So, it gives the appearance that they are producing hay, when in fact they do not.

    I do not advocate that Land Use be done away with. But, there needs to be more validation of actual land use to justify participating in the Land Use tax program.

  16. Will, the intent of the legislation was never to make it possible for people to afford large parcels of land and not farm them. One could argue that that may be a noble goal, but it has nothing with the stated intent of Land Use.

    In fact, if an otherwise “poor” person owns land worth half a million dollars, and isn’t using it for anything but recreation then it can also be argued that they are artificially inflating the price of land. Free market economics would suggest that we do harm to the economy by subsidizing their continued ownership. If it’s a family parcel that they want to hold on to for sentimental reasons then they can get an easement to remove the tax burden.

    As for hay, once again, if it isn’t profitable to grow hay without the tax break in albemarle, then maybe it isn’t a very good crop for our area. Shouldn’t the market and growing conditions decide where is the best county to grow hay? Furthermore, if you aren’t investing anything in the hay production (equipment, etc.) then why are you deserving of a tax break? The whole idea is that farmers have lots of expenses, and thus need economic assistance. Where that’s obviously not the case, why should we be subsidizing it?

    I’m not arguing that we end land use, but I do think that the people that get it should be the people who need it, and that it be used according to the legistlative intent which is farming. It was never meant to protect someones speculative investment in future development, but that’s how it is being used. The result is over-inflated property values making it difficult for real farmers to afford to buy land here.

  17. @ Lonnie

    I’m completely uninterested what the “intent of the legislation” was originally. I don’t want to live in a county where all the large parcels are owned by DM or JG or some other wealthy person.

  18. Will if you own land worth half a million dollars you are a wealthy person. If you have a half million in gold bars in your garage, should other taxpayers give you a tax break to keep you from selling them?

    Same thing here. You’re welcome to own whatever you like, but it just doesn’t follow that if it becomes worth lots of money that you shouldn’t have to pay the same taxes on it everyone else does. There should be some compelling public interest before we give you a tax break, especially in difficult financial times.

    Besides, the easiest way to make sure that only folks like Dave Matthews and Kluge can own large parcels of land is continue Land Use for non-farmers. It encourages speculation which artificially limits supply and drives up prices (and then also raises your taxes). It’s simple economics.

    Ultimately, there is nothing that should make make 50 acres of a forest less taxable than 5 acres of the same forest managed the exact same way. For that matter, I know there are plenty of legitimate farms under five acres that don’t qualify for land use. What makes you more deserving than them?

  19. @ Will

    You claim above: “Doing away with the Land Use tax program would mean that only a handful of extremely wealthy people could afford to own more than a few acres in Albemarle.”

    I don’t read in this column any argument to eliminate the program. Some argue to change its allowances. Would you explain why such (imprecisely described) changes as Steve and Lonnie desire must obtain the pattern of ownership you fear? I don’t see it.

  20. Lonnie, we’re at an impasse as I regard diversity of land ownership (esp by longtime residents) as a “compelling public interest .” You don’t. No big deal. I respect your opinion, but I believe mine, currently at least, is more widely held.

  21. Will,
    If your don’t want to live in a county where all the large parcels are owned by DM or JG or some other wealthy person then Land Use is not the vehicle to achieve that goal. This year 12 land owners applied to the ACE program to protect their land from development. Unfortunately there was only enough money to protect 2 properties. That said, the cost to the tax payer for land use was 19 million dollars. When the tax rate was 74 cents land use accounted for 10 cents of that amount.
    We don’t have to do away with Land Use just change the process. First, we know the total dollar amount Land Use tax breaks will cost in income lost. Just subtract out the amount of money needed for ACE, which will achieve your goal of keeping farmers farming and then direct the remainder toward land use, albeit a reduced amount. The county would be spending the same amount on rural preservation as it did before. The only difference is the cost for rural preservation would be spread across all the residents of the county.
    The real question is, will money for rural protection in the form of either land use or ACE survive. The bos is already talking about reducing money for ACE and I wonder what the reaction of the public is going to be when they see their child’s educational funding severely cut, see the loss of fire and police protection while continuing to give millions in tax subsidies to the wealthiest land owners in the County?

  22. Just scrap the land use program, and completely change the real estate tax system. Instead, tax residents based on number of persons in household. After all, the taxes are to pay for the use of county services. Owning additional acres does not mean more county services are needed.

  23. PV, that’s an interesting suggestion, and I can see why you’d suggest it. From a certain perspective it does make sense. As you said, a single person on ten acres doesn’t cost near as much as a family of ten on one acre.

    One big problem that I see with it though is that it doesn’t allow for any kind of planning. You see if you own a parcel with 50 division rights, those divisions can happen rather quickly causing an instant need for new roads and infrastructure. It makes more sense for the county plan as if each potential parcel could be developed and thus start collecting the taxes in advance to pay for the development that will occur at some point. If development is unlikely to occur, then it makes more sense to eliminate the development rights.

    Additionally, it’d be a pretty regressive tax, meaning that poor people would be paying a larger percentage of their income in taxes than wealthy people. It could have the effect of making land ownership difficult or impossible for lower income families. Of course, this is also the problem with Land Use; it puts most of the tax burden on the people that own the leasts. It sets up a situation where someone with five acres could pay more taxes than someone with 50 or more acres. That’s inherently unfair, especially when the guy that owns 50 acres could end up costing the county vastly more money if they sell to a developer.

    Now I could see a hybrid situation that takes both the acres and number of people into account in the tax rate; however I can see objections from others on different grounds (i.e. what business is it of yours how many kids I have?)

  24. CR,

    I reject the notion that there’s any “cost to the tax payer” for Land Use taxation. Again, we’ve got a fundamental philosophical difference that we won’t resolve here or anywhere else.

    I see the merit in your arguments, but after weighing the totality of the circumstances I come down on the other side.

  25. Will I appreciate that you respectfully disagree, but I am curious about how you justify some of these ideas. For example, you just put forth an economic theory that tax breaks for large land owning non-farmers cost the county nothing?

    I’ve listed some rather specific examples of why that’s not the case, and so have others. While you certainly are entitled to your opinon, it may carry more weight if you were willing to justify it with more specific examples or arguments.

    While I know it isn’t what you meant, real money is indeed allocated to Land Use. It is included in the budget just like any other item that costs money. In fact, many counties in Virginia don’t even have Land Use, or have much more restricted programs. From that perspective, it is an optional program our county has chosen to pay for.

    I promise, I’m not trying to just slam you or anyone else on this issue that disagrees with me. I really do have difficulty understanding your perspective on this, and want to understand. Is it at all possible that this has simply become an entitlement, something that people like yourself came to depend on being there and thus now confuse as a “right”? After all, most honest people would have some heartburn over losing a taxbreak they’d had for years whether they really deserved it or not.

    As a totally unrelated sidenote, you mentioned that you went to school with Perriello. So did I. Where you in my class?

  26. I just don’t believe “money is allocated to land use” as you put it. It’s not the County’s money. It’s the people’s.

    Taxes are high enough. The only way to have a small, limited government (haha – I know) as the Founders intended is to starve the Leviathan. Land Use is one of the last redoubts.

  27. Lonnie, you’re saying that the county needs to collect this money to offset future costs from the eventual development of the land, right? Are there any recent examples that illustrate the cost to a county (any county) when land is developed?

  28. Will,
    With regard to what land use cost and who pays the bill I would direct you to the report on land use done by the county, authored by Bob Tucker, the County Executive where he wrote:
    “The cost of land use is not a hidden fact, since it is implicit in the concept of land use taxation that the tax burden is shifted to other taxpayers.”
    Put another way agriculture represents about 1% of the workforce in Albemarle county, yet receives what accounts to about 13% of your tax cost, that is to say if land use was discontinued taxes could drop by 13%, which represents the shift in tax burden the county executive described.
    Hope that helps.

  29. Try Biscuit Run. Sure, the current economic situation has put a hold on development for now, but when built it will cost taxpayers millions in new infrastructure.

    As a solid example of what I’m talking about, look at the astronomical cost figures for either dredging the North Fork, or expanding Ragged Mountain. None of these projects are being done to meet current needs, but rather the anticipated needs of pending or future development. Unfortunately, we can’t wait until after developments are built to start doing things like expanding the water supply, so that means we have to pay for them now.

    So, yes… Even when a real farmer turns around and subdivides his 100 acres, is causes real costs to existing taxpayers. We sometimes reclaim some of that by proffers; however, usually not enough to avoid tax raises on everyone else who don’t qualify for Land Use.

  30. It’s better to live in a thriving, GROWING community like ours and absorb the costs that come with that than to live somewhere that’s stagnating or contracting. Ask someone from the former East Germany or certain areas of SW VA if you don’t believe me.

  31. Will, its a false dilemma. After all, we were told that it was necessary to build massive numbers of houses expanding areas like crozet exponentially. We were told this was “good for our economy”. Take a look at all the homes either just sitting on the market, or in foreclosure.

    The only areas of the country doing fairly well right now are the ones that didn’t fall for that bogus economics. Problems in the economy South West Virginia, or Eastern Germany doesn’t have anything at all with failing to build lots of houses. It’s the growth of business, not residences that fuels an economy.

    Plus, as we’ve now seen, the housing market has shown itself not only to be national in nature but even somewhat global. That means that we could have never built enough homes to satisfy the demand. Only changes in the national market could do that (which it did). It was bad policy on our part not to do more to restrict growth. We’d be hurting alot less now if we had.

  32. An economy based on a housing economy, in which nobody, including the people building the homes, can afford to buy the houses, was probably not a good idea.

  33. Occam’s Razor says Barney Frank is responsible for a global recession since he allowed Fan/Fred to loan money to people who were, to put it charitably, not credit worthy. I gotta go w/ Occam on that one but, again, acknowledge there are many other valid interpretations. Just none as valid as mine. ;-)

  34. I wasn’t credit worthy, either, but secured a no doc mortgage at a (higher) fixed rate. That’s the real problem: those who aren’t ‘credit worthy’ pay significantly higher interest rates which, surprise, surprise, tend to toss them into the land of foreclosure sooner. The higher interest rates were supposed to ‘protect’ the lenders from much of this mess; in my opinion it caused a great deal of it.

  35. Will,

    I would agree with you if the stink of short-term profiteering wasn’t lingering in the air: lenders took short-term profits and/or provided loans that looked good initially but stunk long-term, realtors drove up prices, and developers produced housing as though the economic good times were built on reality.

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